Gorillaz’s Demon Dayz Festival Becomes One with LA

Steven Smith, Contributing Writer

About 16 years ago, musician Damon Albarn’s and artist Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz opened their Los Angeles debut with the heavier-on-the-rock sounding track, “M1 A1.”  This last Saturday at their Demon Dayz festival, that same track kicked off the show. That is about all that remained the same in terms of a Gorillaz live show. The musicians’ silhouettes could be seen jumping around behind a white curtain at their 2002 show. There were minimal visuals to make up the other half, the fictional animated band, 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russell Hobbs.   


Fast forward to 2018 and the Gorillaz set is a sensory overload of vision and sound. Screen projections elevated every song played at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, giving life to the four cartoon characters.


They followed the staple intro with their latest single, “Tranz,” and then back to some fan-favorites, “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “19/2000.” The band touched on all six albums throughout their boutique festival which shares the name of their second album, Demon Dayz. However, their 2017 album, Humanz, probably had the least representation at the festival. Just as 2018 album, The Now Now, brought the focus back to Albarn taking the lead on more songs, Saturday’s performance did as well.  


It wouldn’t be a Gorillaz experience without guests.  De La Soul joined in twice to perform “Superfast Jellyfish” in the show, and then returned to take the lead on “Feel Good Inc.”  Jazz guitarist, George Benson, elevated “Humility,” and DRAM, who performed his own set earlier, performed “Andromeda” with the band.  


The biggest surprise of the night was introduced as Albarn spoke to the audience of Gorillaz being all about cross-pollination and brought out Blur bandmate, Graham Coxon to perform anthem favorite, “Song 2.”  All of Pico Rivera likely heard fans yelling the chorus, “woo-hoo” throughout the two-minute song.


Gorillaz is many things to many people and the thousands of fans indulged on a very special night. Exploring the features of the festival, attendees were able to view Gorillaz-themed murals, art from music videos and decor that represented various elements of Gorillaz songs. This festival was like Christmas for the thousands of Gorillaz superfans.  A pop-up shop was set up at the arena, known as the G-Store, where fans waited in line for up to two hours to purchase unique merchandise.


Demon Dayz Los Angeles was the second time that the band curated their own boutique festival. The first Demon Dayz took place at an amusement park in the United Kingdom. This second Demon Dayz took a good look at where it was and served up a festival that heavily represented the hispanic community of Los Angeles. From mariachi performances, to lucha libre wrestling matches, to a Dios de los Muertos procession that traveled through the anxious crowd to the main stage to bring out the band everyone had come to see. LA was so well-represented. When the Dodgers advanced to the World Series, there was a loud roar of cheer and excitement that erupted throughout the festival grounds.  What a night to be a Gorillaz fan and an Angeleno.


Other artists who performed were DRAM, Little Simz and Kilo-Kish.  The Internet had everyone moving in the actual sports area. Erykah Badu played on the main stage before Gorillaz. The “You Got Me” singer took the stage over 30 minutes behind schedule.  Her voice sounded great, however, after a handful of songs, Badu acknowledged that even though she was late, she was going to cut her set short.


In addition to the music, Demon Dayz featured artist doing live paintings and tattoos on the grounds.  Obey artist, Shepard Fairey had a mural display and remained accessible to fans on during the festival.  


Damon Albarn is very much a chameleon with his broad range of musical projects, always blending in with various genres.  He and the festival organizers carried that torch by blending Demon Dayz with Los Angeles culture. On that day, Albarn was an Angeleno.